Boys basketball: McHenry holds off Hononegah’s torrent of 3s to advance to sectional championship

Warriors will face Warren on Friday in Class 4A Guilford Sectional final

McHenry's Marko Visnjevac celebrates McHenry’s win over Hononegah in the IHSA Class 4A Guilford Boys Basketball Sectional semifinal game on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024, at Rock Valley College in Rockford.

ROCKFORD – McHenry opened the second half with 3-pointers from Caleb Jett and Adam Anwar to take a 12-point lead, only to have Hononegah come back and hit four 3s in less than two minutes to tie the score.

The Warriors pulled ahead by 10 points in the fourth and threatened to take control, but Hononegah just refused to go away, firing away from behind the arc and finishing with 14 3s.

“Our guys just scrapped,” Warriors coach Corky Card said. “It’s a tough way to play with a team trying to win games on 3s. Our kids were resilient. When they hit a bunch, we just kept playing, just kept attacking.”

McHenry came up with a huge defensive stop with 9 seconds remaining, Anwar swished two free throws with 8.4 to go, and the Warriors grabbed a 58-53 victory in a Class 4A Guilford Sectional semifinal game Wednesday night at Rock Valley College.

The win was the 300th of Card’s coaching career and gave the Warriors (26-8) their school win record. McHenry faces Warren (30-4) at 7 p.m. Friday for the sectional title.

“It’s amazing. It’s one more great accomplishment, but one more would be a sectional on Friday,” said Warriors guard Marko Visnjevac, who led all players with 23 points.

No one came up bigger than Visnjevac, a 6-foot senior who passed 1,000 points this season. The 3s from Jett and Anwar were the first buckets of the second half for either team and put McHenry ahead 28-16.

Hononegah (13-17) made 42 3s in its three postseason games and heated up right after that to tie it at 28 with 3:55 in the third. Visnjevac answered with a 3 and two free throws. After the Indians tied it again, Visnjevac hit another 3.

The Warriors never trailed in the second half.

“Honestly, I feel like I’ve been preparing for this moment my whole life,” Visnjevac said. “It was more about our defense and limiting offensive rebounds.”

McHenry built its lead back to 50-40 when Visnjevac tossed Hayden Stone a pass for an alley-oop layup with 5:40 remaining in the fourth. The Indians rallied back again and hacked the lead to 53-50 with 1:13 remaining on Lucas Claudy’s 3.

“We’ve been shooting the ball with confidence down the stretch here,” Indians coach Tom Schmidt said. “We knew, coming in, against their 1-2-2 ball press we were going to get looks from the outside. So mentally, it’s a shot we’re comfortable taking and a shot we knew we were going to get.”

Visnjevac made two free throws, then Cole Warren hit another 3 for Hononegah. Visnjevac made one free throw with 32 seconds remaining for a 56-53 lead and the Warriors came up with the big stop when a Hononegah pass went out of bounds.

“We pressured them, but we also confused them,” Visnjevac said. “We were sending other guys and got pressure on the ball, I’m not sure they knew what was going on and threw it away.”

Schmidt wanted to get the ball in the middle and kick it out for a 3.

“We were getting some pretty good looks off that most of the night,” he said. “I was about half of a second away from calling timeout. I was walking down the sideline to call timeout and I see the ball going over the outstretched reach of Claudy’s hands. You have to give McHenry credit.”

Jett scored 13 points and Stone added 10 for the Warriors. Darian Tholin led Hononegah with 17, Claudy had 14 and Warren added 13.

“Those 3s back and forth was fun,” Stone said. “I have to say it was just us being connected and thriving off each other. Having energy in those tough moments when they’d hit a 3 and come right back and score ourselves. Us staying connected was a big part.”

Card coached at Prairie Ridge for 15 seasons, then for three seasons at Dunlap, before coming back to the area last summer to take over at McHenry.

“The 300 is a huge number for coach, we’re super proud of him,” said Stone, who had five blocked shots. “Some of us knew that this was for the team, but mainly for him. He’s been a great coach coming in here and getting going, building relationships and everything.

“And being the winningest team in McHenry is a great feeling. We celebrated in the locker room, I’m soaked.”

McHenry 58, Hononegah 53
McHENRY (58)
Visnjevac 6 7-8 23, Maness 0 0-0 0, Stone 3 2-2 10, Jett 5 1-2 13, Anwar 2 3-5 8, Stojich 1 0-0 2, D. Hurckes 1 0-0 2, Sites 0 0-0 0, Bronowicki 0 0-0 0, T. Hurckes 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 13-17 58.
Tholin 6 0-0 17, Claudy 4 2-2 14, Warren 4 2-2 13, Houi 1 0-0 3, Schmall 1 0-0 2, Hart 0 0-0 0, Schomburg 1 0-0 3, Touvannas 0 0-0 0, Olson 0 1-2 1. Totals: 17 5-6 53.
McHenry 9 13 19 17 – 58
Hononegah 7 9 20 17 – 53
3-point goals: McHenry 9 (Visnjevac 4, Jett 2, Stone 2, Anwar), Hononegah 14 (Tholin 5, Claudy 4, Warren 3, Houi, Schomburg). Total fouls: McHenry 12, Hononegah 14.